Aloha Sushi faces slumping business, delays opening of lounge

caitlinhardee

Photo Credit : Fennell

Last October, The Pioneer spoke to the owner of Aloha Sushi, Paul Mobley about his plans to expand the sushi restaurant with the addition of a lounge and bar. Half a year later, his dreams of Japanese game shows, karaoke nights and a hip nightlife vibe have yet to materialize.

“In light of the economy, we’re being extremely cautious on our spending on this point, just to make sure we don’t overextend ourselves,” said Mobley. “Right now the business is down a bit, so we’ve just put a little delay on things. We’ve done some initial demolition and we’ve received all the bids from all the contractors: they’re standing by for our go-ahead. Initially we were looking at mid-July as an opening time. But even that may push, as things go.”

Meanwhile, operations continue as usual with the restaurant itself. Whitman students spoke over their perception of the current atmosphere and dining experience.

“I’ve been a couple times,” said sophomore Eri Imahori. “I’m from Japan: it’s very different from what a Japanese sushi place would be like. The food, first of all, is very different. Even though they’re both called sushi, they’re different kinds of sushi, and it’s very Americanized. Even visually, you can just tell, looking at it, it’s not Japanese sushi. And when you eat it, it doesn’t taste like Japanese sushi. And then the atmosphere . . .it seems kind of . . . dinkier. A little old.”

Not all students agreed. Sophomore Peter Olson recounted his experiences at Aloha Sushi.

“I loved it; it was really good,” said Olson. “I grew up eating a lot of sushi in Seattle. I’ve ordered sushi, different rolls, some of the soups: I’ve never had a bad experience there. The sushi chefs are very nice and entertaining, they’re right there making stuff in front of you, so it’s a good atmosphere. You really feel part of the food-making process and you get to see what’s being made for you.”

Mobley is currently trying to combat the business slump with a new, Internet-based advertising strategy.

Photo Credit : Fennell

 

“We’ve migrated from print ads: we do the majority of our advertising right now through Facebook,” said Mobley. “We generate all of our specials directly through Facebook. If a boatload of Ahi tuna comes in and we get a good deal on that, we pass that directly to the customers. Facebook is an immediate kind of marketing which we really enjoy. We’ve only been doing it for six to eight weeks and we have over 600 fans.”

Meanwhile, Mobley’s plans for the yet-unbuilt Longboard Lounge are unchanged.

“Everything is still the same with the lounge in terms of offering Japanese game shows, karaoke and a small corner stage that’ll accommodate one or two vocalists and a backup guitar,” said Mobley.

Whether these new offerings will appeal to the community remains to be seen.

“Karaoke is not done [in Japan] the way it’s done over here,” said Imahori. “I guess it’s good that they’re trying. But because it’s so different, it doesn’t really motivate me to go.”

“If they had a bar and I was of age later, it would make me want to go there in different circumstances,” said Olson. “It wouldn’t change my desire to go there for dinner per se; it’s already a great dinner restaurant, but it might change my desire to go there other times, for their other resources.”

Olson may indeed be of age to drink, by the time the Longboard Lounge opens its doors. For now, the timeline for the opening of the lounge remains uncertain.